Have you got your eye on a dream job, but think the competition may be too tough? What if we told you that there are just five things you need to do in a job interview to appear impressive? Here’s how to stand out in an interview.
How to stand out from the crowd in an interview
There’s nothing better than an employee who goes the extra mile without being asked, spots problems before they arise and generally stays one step ahead in their role. That’s why it’s so important to show initiative during an interview.
Doing so tells the interviewer that you’re likely to be the dream employee described above.
So, how can you show initiative in an interview?
There’s no need for a grand gesture, small things can make all the difference. For example, if you’re interviewing for a creative or practical role, bring examples of your work to the interview. It’s so simple, yet many people only do this if they have been asked to do so by the interviewer.
Bringing work samples to an interview demonstrates that you understand that talk is cheap and it’s action that counts. Anyone can nod, smile and say the right things at an interview, but your work will always be the best proof of if you can get the job done or not.
Asking the right follow up questions during your interview is also a simple but effective way to show initiative in an interview. Avoid the temptation to only answer the questions you are asked. If an interviewer says something that gets you thinking, speak up.
Did they mention a company rebrand, change in senior management or that it is a period of change for the company, don’t just sit there, ask them why. Don’t worry about overstepping the mark – If it was a no-go area, they wouldn’t have brought it up in the interview.
There’s no need for a grand gesture, small things can make all the difference. For example, if you’re interviewing for a creative or practical role, bring examples of your work to the interview.
Demonstrate a good understanding of the company and industry
Always do your homework before you go to an interview. This means:
- find out the basics about the company, such as when it started, who started it, what the company does, how it makes money etc.
- investigate the company’s competitors and if they are doing better or worse than the company
- what could the company do that it currently isn’t doing
- what is the state of the industry
It’s worth researching your interviewers a little (LinkedIn is perfect for this), but tread carefully before saying something that lets the interviewers know you’ve been Googling them.
While it’s great to demonstrate that you’ve done your research on the company and industry, it’s not always appropriate to mention that you have researched the interviewer. This is simply because it’s easy to cross the line from professional to personal without realising it. Mentioning something you read online that the interviewer may not want you to know is the quickest way to embarrass them.
Be honest about what you think
It’s common for interviewers to ask for your thoughts on the company and what they can do better. And while you may think the best response is to heap praise on the company, the ability to critically appraise the business is usually more effective at helping you stand out in an interview.
Of course, it’s important to avoid being too critical. Instead, mention the things you genuinely believe the company is doing well and why. Then mention the top two things that could be improved. Explain why and how they could be improved. But before you do so, mention any signs that the company is aware of this problem and is already making attempts to address it.
You may think the best response is to heap praise on the company, the ability to critically appraise the business is usually more effective at helping you stand out in an interview.
Be honest about your abilities
This doesn’t mean that you should let the interviewer know how inexperienced you are. It means that you should have great awareness of your strengths and your weaknesses.
If you’re asked the dreaded interview question: “What is your greatest weakness?” don’t pick a strength disguised as a weakness, such as: “I am too hard working.” That sounds fake and unimaginative. Instead pick something that:
- you genuinely aren’t great at – you’ll come across as more sincere when talking about it
- you’re making efforts to improve – this demonstrates you have good initiative
- isn’t central to the role you’re interviewing for – this prevents the weakness from ruining your chances of getting the job
Don’t limit your honesty to your strengths and weaknesses, being open about who you really are can also help you stand out in an interview.
For example, when asked about how you work in a team, don’t give run-of-the-mill answers like: “I work well with everyone.”. Be honest. If you can’t stand disorganised people, say so. Do you struggle to work under a micromanager? Speak up.
Doing so benefits you in two ways. Firstly, you’ll show the interviewer that you have a personality and that you are honest. Secondly, it’s an effective way of eliminating yourself from a job that’s likely to become a nightmare. If the things you dislike are prevalent in the company, the interviewer will usually notice this and won’t hire you – because they know you’re not going to enjoy the job or stay very long. And while this may feel disappointing, it’s actually a blessing in disguise as it saves you from the stress that working for that company would bring.
Being honest is an effective way of eliminating yourself from a job that’s likely to become a nightmare.
Don’t forget the basics
It’s easy to be so focused on how to stand out in an interview that you forget to do the simple things that really count. These include:
- arriving on time
- dressing appropriately
- bringing any documents you have been asked to bring
- asking for the right person on arrival
- smiling and speaking clearly
- switching off your phone
So, do you feel ready to shine in your interview? Make sure you avoid these common interview mistakes.
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